Jazz Faculty Make Advances In Their Second Agreement

New School Jazz Program

Volume CII, No. 1January, 2002

Natasha Jackson

Local 802 has negotiated its second collective bargaining agreement with the Jazz and Contemporary Music Program at the New School University and, as this issue went to press, faculty members were voting on whether to ratify it.

The first contract, negotiated in 1998, was instrumental in launching the Justice for Jazz Artists Campaign. It provided unprecedented benefits for the adjunct faculty, and continues to pave the way for adjunct faculty around the country. The new three-year agreement would improve on the last one in terms of wages, pension and health benefits, as well as grievance procedure language.

More than 70 jazz instructors are covered by the contract, making it the largest bargaining unit represented by Local 802 in the jazz field. This has taken on added importance, since “jazz education is a growing field,” said 802 President Bill Moriarity. “More and more, it is becoming a way for musicians to make a living. This contract is an important achievement, because union representation has been missing from jazz performance for a long time. As new areas of employment open up for jazz artists, it is important that we find ways to ensure that their rights are protected.”

The contract will help to establish standards in the new programs being created at universities around the country. The New School Jazz Program, which many consider the most prominent program in the nation, is built around a part-time faculty of working artists, including some of the most accomplished jazz musicians in the world. In addition, the private lessons program extends emploment to any jazz artist requested by a student of the program. “Employing such accomplished musicians necessitates that there be an established standard for fair employment,” said committee member Bill Kirshner. “When you consider some of the talent employed at this institution, it just doesn’t get any better.”

The negotiating committee, which began meeting early last March, surveyed faculty members to identify their major concerns. The issues were similar to those addressed in the first contract: wages, health benefits and pension. The New School had experienced an increase in health insurance costs during the second year of the last contract, nearly doubling payroll deductions to meet the premiums for faculty using the CIGNA health plan. This was a key issue throughout the negotiations.

Although bargaining slowed after the events of Sept. 11, committee members pressed on to achieve a contract that would meet the needs of faculty members. On Nov. 16, a tentative agreement was reached. On Dec. 8, a ratification meeting was held at Local 802 to review the contract summary and begin the ratification vote. Voting was to be completed on Dec. 15, after this issue went to press.

Highlights of the three-year contract include:

  • A yearly wage increase of 3.5 percent over each instructor’s current rate, which varies depending on the number of years at the program. Private lesson rates, which are also available to non-faculty, will increase from $55 to $70 in the first year, $72.50 in the second year and $75 in the last year of the contract.
  • The pension contribution will increase from the current 4 percent of gross wages to 5 percent, beginning in the contract’s first year. In addition, a “most favored nations” clause will be added to the contract, granting the faculty any pension increase that is granted other part-time faculty if it exceeds the rate provided in the collective bargaining agreement.
  • The new contract will also allow wages paid for jury duty, advisory work and committee service to earn pension. In the past, only wages earned for classroom work and private lessons earned pension contributions.
  • Health benefits contributions made by the New School will increase in each year of the proposed contract, providing some security against possible future insurance premium increases. A “most favored nations” clause is also included for health benefits.
  • The contract will have stronger grievance procedure language, providing greater job security for more of the bargaining unit work.
  • Executive, curriculum and faculty committee honoraria will increase.

Although the negotiating committee was not able to achieve all of its goals for this contract, the general feeling was one of satisfaction. Lenny Lebowitz, lead negotiator and Local 802 legal counsel, said he was very pleased with the outcome, noting that “there is no contract covering part-time instructors that equals this contract.”